‘THE policy of France, that started from day one, to support the terrorists in Syria, is responsible directly for the killings in our country,’ President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with French media last week.
He affirmed that victory in Aleppo is an important step in the way to defeat and to eliminate the terrorism from the country, adding ‘we don’t think that we can talk about winning the war unless we defeat the terrorists everywhere in Syria.’
The president added in an interview given to French TF1 TV and EUROPE 1 Radio that the west supported terrorists in Syria under the name of ‘moderate’, but it was supporting them in the same basis as al-Qaeda and ISIS. News Line is pleased to published excerpts of the interview.
Question: ‘A simple question to start with: after the fall of Aleppo two months ago, can one say that you have won the war?’
President Assad: ‘No, we don’t think that we can talk about winning the war unless we defeat the terrorists everywhere in Syria. It’s just an important step in the way to defeat and to eliminate the terrorism from our country, but I think it’s going to be a long way for one reason, a simple reason; because they still have the support of many Western countries including France, including UK, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Qatar in our region.’
Question : ‘You talk about a long way; can you summarise from a military point of view the objectives that you have still to reach?’
President Assad: ‘Definitely, when I talk about eliminating the terrorists from our country, it means to take over every inch of our country, to bring it back under the control of the government, and that’s the duty of any government; is to take control of every place.’
Question: ‘In which part of Syria particularly, which town?’
President Assad: ‘You mean next after Aleppo?’
President Assad: ‘Of course, now you have to, and we are, we continue our campaign in the area surrounding Aleppo, just to make Aleppo more immune against any other terrorist attacks from the western and northern part that’s been supported by Turkey directly, by the Turkish army.’
Question: ‘Sir, you present yourself as the main shield against terrorism. There’s a lot of people, in the West in particular, would think that ISIS on the one hand and your regime on the other hand are the two sides, the two faces of a same evil trying to crush any form of democratic and free expression in this country. What would you answer to them? It’s a real question.’
President Assad: ‘First of all, we’re not a regime; we are a state, institutions. ‘Second one, that’s the demonisation of the Western mainstream media and political strata regarding Syria and the Syrian government and Syrian army, because they supported those “moderates” at the very beginning, and at the beginning they said they are “peaceful demonstrators,” then they said “they’re not peaceful, they are fighters but they are moderate,” but they couldn’t recognise that they were supporting the same grassroots of Al Qaeda and ISIS.
”That’s why they say that we are trying to promote those terrorists and to use them as alternative so the West cannot choose. First of all, the West doesn’t have to choose between me and ISIS: my people have to choose, because this is a Syrian issue, to be frank with you. So, we don’t care about what the Western officials think about this; they have to worry about their people and to protect their people from the terrorist attacks that’s been happening because of their policies.’
Question: ‘Sir, let’s talk about relation between France and Syria. In a few weeks from now, a new president will be elected in France, and among the debates we have in our country there is the issue of resuming dialogue with your government. Do you hope for the renewal of diplomatic relations with France?’
President Assad: ‘It’s not about the diplomatic relations. First of all, it’s about the policy of France.
‘So, if we don’t have this diplomatic relation, it’s not that big problem for the time being now. Maybe in the long-term, you need to have good relations with any country, including diplomatic relations.’
Journalist: ‘So, let’s talk about the policy of France.’
President Assad: ‘Exactly. The policy of France, that started from day one, to support the terrorists in Syria, and is responsible directly of the killings in our country.’
Journalist: ‘How can you say it… it’s a serious accusation against France. How can you say that France is supporting terrorism?’
President Assad: ‘They said – I didn’t accuse them. They said, many times, they supported the war, and Hollande recently said it was a mistake not to launch war in 2013. They said that they send armaments to whom they call “moderate” groups, which are terrorists. They said that, I didn’t say that. The Americans said the same, the French said the same. So, your officials – go back to their statements during the last two, three, four years, maybe – you have more than one self-accusation by the French officials.’
Question: ‘Francois Hollande is about to leave the power in France. You’re still there. Did you win your struggle, your arm-wrestling with Francois Hollande?’
President Assad: ‘It’s not between me and him, it’s not something personal, I never met him, I don’t care about him, to be frank, and his popularity is 11% recently, which is rock-bottom, I think, for any president in the history of France. Actually, it’s between me and the terrorists, and between me and whoever supports the terrorists. Till this moment, the terrorists couldn’t win the war, but they’ve been destroying Syria, they killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians, so I cannot say I won the war. They didn’t succeed in their plan, but till this moment we haven’t finished our war, so I cannot say that I won the war.’
Question: ‘A country already changed its president; that is the United States. One of the first contested decisions of Donald Trump is the Muslim ban. It intended to forbid citizens from some Muslim countries, including Syria, to travel to US. As a Syrian citizen, as president of Syria, do you feel some humiliation there?’
President Assad: ‘No, no, because it’s not against the Syrian people, first of all, it’s against the terrorists that could infiltrate some of the immigrants to the West, and that happened; happened in Europe, mainly in Germany, and it could happen in the United States. So, I think the aim of Trump is to prevent those people from coming, so he took it this way. Second…’
Journalist: ‘So, he’s in the right way, when he…’
President Assad: ‘No, no, I’m talking about something we can disagree or agree on as persons, but for me as president, I wouldn’t worry about that. I’m worried about how can I bring the Syrian people to Syria, not to send them to the United States. I wouldn’t feel happy if they could access other countries, I will feel happy when they can come back to Syria, because they want to come back to Syria, the majority of the Syrians left because of the terrorism and the embargo, the Western embargo. So, if I want to deal with that decision, I would ask Trump and the Western countries to lift the embargo and to stop supporting the terrorists. They wouldn’t have problem with this. They won’t have immigrants or terrorists infiltrating the immigrants.
‘Second, this is another important point, all the fuss that we heard about Trump’s decisions is not because they are worried about the Syrians or about any other countries; it’s because they want to use our cause, our problem, our conflict, as the fuel for their conflict with Trump, because you have other decisions that have been taken by Obama a few months ago regarding the same issue, the mainstream media in the United States didn’t talk about it; it only talked about Trump when he announced it publicly and he took it in a stark way.’
Question: ‘So, you feel more comfortable, you, with Donald Trump than with Mr. Barack Obama?’
President Assad: ‘No, I cannot feel comfortable unless I see his policy towards Syria; I haven’t seen it yet. So, again we have to be cautious with every Western leader because they can say something and do the opposite, and then they can say something… do something in the morning and do the opposite in the evening. They wouldn’t commit to anything; they are very pragmatic till they sell their values, they don’t have values in their policies.’
Question: ‘A second round of negotiations is starting now in Astana, in Kazakhstan, and it’s very striking; the Western countries are totally out of the game, they’re out of the picture. Is this really good for the future of the negotiations and the future of peace in the region?’
President Assad: ‘No, the more support you have for any political process, the better, but the Western countries that been involved in those processes, mainly France and UK, lost the chance of achieving anything in Geneva, twice; two rounds in Geneva and they couldn’t achieve anything because they supported those groups that represented the terrorists against the government. They didn’t want to achieve peace in Syria; they wanted to achieve their goals through the peace axis of the whole process.’
Question: ‘But the fact that the destiny of the Middle East is supervised right now by two countries, Iran and Russia, that by the way don’t have a fantastic democratic record of their own, is that a good thing?’
President Assad: ‘Again, the more involvement you have around the world, the better, and that’s not only our vision; that’s even the Russian vision, and the Russians invited many countries to come and help them in fighting terrorism and supporting this political process, but the Western countries isolated themselves, not Iran, not Russia. They were very passive in dealing with all these initiatives, like Astana; where are they? Did the Russians tell them not to come? No, they didn’t. They didn’t come.’
Journalist: ‘So, Iran and Russia are promoters of peace, and the Western countries of war?’
President Assad: ‘Exactly, a hundred per cent, hundred per cent.’